Even with a state of emergency declaration, Island communities cannot request cottagers to stay away from their Manitoulin properties

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MANITOULIN – Even if all municipalities and First Nations on Manitoulin Island declare a state of emergency due to COVID-19, it doesn’t appear they would have the authority to tell all Manitoulin cottagers or visitors to the Island to return to their principal homes until the pandemic is over. 

“This directive would need to come from the province,” said Ken Noland, chair of the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) on Tuesday. “And it doesn’t appear the province has the willingness to put this legislation in place.” He had told the MMA at a meeting last week he would pose this question to the province. 

“I posed the question first to Emergency Management Ontario and they said I needed to forward the question to the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (MMAH),” Reeve Noland said.

A response from Sarah Jacob, field officer for Emergency Management Ontario said, “your question was forwarded to me as I am the field officer for Manitoulin Island. I would recommend contacting your municipal affairs and housing advisor to understand the process of placing this sort of bylaw.”

The same question was then posed to the MMAH, said Reeve Noland, and the reply that came from the ministry was, “whether you can stop persons from accessing their seasonal residences is a legal question. You should consult your municipal legal counsel to determine if that is something that could be done under the authority of a declaration of emergency. You can also call the provincial hotline at 1-888-444-3659.”

“I got nowhere as well with calling that 1-888 number,” said Reeve Noland. “The directive would need to come from the province. I am speaking to our MPP to see if he can push this through the government.”  

As for the answers the two ministries provided to the questions posed, Gore Bay Mayor Dan Osborne said, “Why does the response not surprise me? Everyone passes the buck. We get a legal opinion that will say maybe, maybe not; we make a decision and then get sued.”